Amid calls to homeschool after school shootings, homeschool alumni group urges caution


After every mass shooting in a school, homeschool advocates position homeschooling as the answer to protect children from violence. Most recently, the Robb Elementary School mass shooting—which claimed the lives of 19 children and two adults—has provoked renewed interest in homeschooling from concerned parents and the general public. The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), the nation’s only nonpartisan advocacy organization founded and run by homeschool alumni to advocate for homeschooled children, believes this is not a viable solution, and urges the public instead to make public schools and homeschools alike safe for the children who depend on them. 

Homeschooling is not the solution to protecting children from gun violence. The past decade alone has seen a rise in mass shootings at movie theaters, grocery stores, churches, concerts, and other locations frequented by children. Removing children from school does not guarantee they will not encounter gun violence elsewhere; in fact, homeschooled children like Isaac Miller, Mallory Evans, and Olivia Huggler have been killed by mass shooters in their own homes. Instead, the removal of children from schools only guarantees they will lose access to the services and community schools provide.

Homeschooling does not necessarily protect children from any form of violence. CRHE maintains Homeschooling’s Invisible Children, a database tracking hundreds of cases of child abuse and neglect in homeschooling environments. According to our data, at least 156 homeschooled children have been murdered in homeschooling environments over the past two decades, a rate higher than that of their public-school peers. “Because of the largely deregulated state of homeschooling in the U.S., homeschooled children have no guaranteed access to mandatory reporters, health and wellness services, and other measures that can identify and address problems at home,” said CRHE interim executive director Kieryn Darkwater. “This situation leaves millions of homeschooled children uniquely vulnerable to abuse and neglect with minimal opportunities for intervention.”

Furthermore, homeschooling itself can often be a contributing factor when young people commit violence. Some homeschooled children commit violence against caregivers to escape extreme abuse or a life-threatening situation. These children may feel that they have no one to turn to for help, and that violence is their only option when their lives are at stake.

Other homeschooled children and alumni who commit acts of violence seem to be fueled by the same trends as in society at large—toxic masculinity, white supremacy, alienation—which are then magnified by the homeschool environment. Homeschool alumni have been explicitly trained by their parents to become extremist terrorists or have been radicalized by their homeschool curriculum with tacit approval from their parents. Sometimes homeschooling is used as a “solution” for children who demonstrate violent tendencies, which may then worsen the problem. And for other homeschooled children, the isolation of the homeschool environment may contribute to a sense of disconnection where violence seems like an appealing alternative. The 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School and 2018 Nashville Waffle House shootings, for example, were committed by men who had been homeschooled. 

“Our database of homeschooled children and alumni who have committed acts of violence reveals common patterns,” said CRHE research director Dr. Chelsea McCracken. “Not only is homeschooling an ineffective escape from societal problems that affect us all, in some cases it may intensify those problems. As a result, we find that homeschooling works best when it is chosen not out of fear, but as a positive, child-centered approach to education that prepares children for an open future.” In this vein, CRHE’s Bill of Rights for Homeschooled Children, an aspirational vision for the homeschooling movement released in 2021, details an experience that centers the rights and needs of children. 

Schools serve an indispensable function in society, offering vital services to millions of children who would not otherwise have access to them. Schools offer comprehensive education, disability and wellness services, sports and recreational opportunities, college and career preparedness, and the chance to form meaningful relationships with peers and mentors. For many children, public schools are the best educational choice available. Instead of abandoning schools in the name of protecting children, we urge parents and policymakers to renew their commitment to making public schools safe. Studies have shown that measures addressing gun violence, poverty, and inequity promote a safer and better society for all children, regardless of how they are educated. Individual educational choices are not a solution to a collective societal problem.

“All children deserve a high-quality education in a safe, supportive environment. Whether a child goes to public school or is homeschooled, there’s a lot that must be done to make sure that child is safe and has everything they need to thrive,” said Darkwater. “As CRHE continues to advocate for the rights and safety of homeschooled children, we fully support the educators and advocates working to improve public schools to best serve children’s needs there.”


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